With two original songs on their upcoming debut album, the members of Spectrum Road are confident it will be more than a one-off supergroup according to bassist Jack Bruce.
“It started off as kind of a tribute but entered into a band — John Medeski described it,” the Cream veteran tells Billboard.com about the quartet that features himself, keyboardist Medeski, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and drummer Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz, Bill Laswell, Pharoah Sanders). The group formed to salute the late jazz drummer, composer and bandleader Tony Williams — taking its name from his 1969 song “Via the Spectrum Road” — and while Bruce says that “you don’t get tired of playing those old tunes” Spectrum Road has an appetite to reach “the next level of the band.”
“Obviously the starting point is Tony and his Lifetime band,” says Bruce, who was part of that group for 1970’s “Turn It Over” album. “Now we just want (Spectrum Road) to be an entity. We don’t want to have a bandleader as such, or anything like that. I’ve written one piece which I would like to try, which is simply called ‘T’ because that was Tony’s nickname. There are a couple other ideas. None of us want to force it, but we want to take the next steps as if it were a band.”
Bruce says his own time with Lifetime, which at the time also included John McLaughlin on guitar and Larry Young on keyboards, “was kind of exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. It wasn’t long after Cream had finished. I had my own band, which I gave up to join Lifetime… but unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of working happening. I spent a lot of time hanging around New York, waiting to play. I organized a tour of Europe, which was fantastic, but then after that nothing much happened and the band kind of ground to a halt, then ceased to exist.”
Spectrum Road, meanwhile, started life as the Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute Band in 2008 to play concerts in Japan, one of which was also broadcast on TV. The quartet got together again during February of 2011 for a series of North American club shows, which led to the 10-track album that includes songs from the Lifetime albums “Emergency!,” “Turn It Over,” “Ego,” “Believe It” and “The Joy of Flying.” “When we recorded we just treated it very much like a live show, like a live experience,” Bruce says. “We just went in the studio and played all at the same time and then did some overdubs. But basically it was done live.”
He also said a version of the song “Via the Spectrum Road,” which doesn’t appear on the album, is “certainly a possibility” for whatever the group does next.
Spectrum Road hits the road again for 15 North American and European dates that begin on June 9 at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and also includes festivals in San Francisco, Hollywood, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway. Bruce — who continues to tour with his own Big Blues Band — says future dates are being considered but haven’t been determined yet.